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Stone Donkey Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante


A two day backpacking trip to a narrow, deep and dark technical slot canyon. Gear required: helmet, webbing (60 ft), harness, descender, headlamp and 2x200' ropes (or a 200' rope and 200' pull cord). A wet suit is required in cooler wetter weather (though the canyon was dry when I was here). This trip is suitable for intermediate canyoneers familiar with evaluating and using natural anchors.


From Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT drive to between mileposts 17-18 and turn north on the well graded, dirt Cottonwood Road. Drive 14.4 miles to just past a cattle guard and right branching Brigham Plains Road to a short pull off on the left (west) that is the trailhead for Hackberry Canyon. The gps point for the car park is: UTM 419359mE, 4123741mN

Road Conditions:

High Clearance Vehicle




20 miles

Date Hiked:

April, 2008

Weather Conditions:

Warm and sunny with chilly nights

Required Skills:

Hike Description:

From the parking area, pick up the trail that leads down, then across Cottonwood Wash (don't bother trying to keep your feet dry, you'll be walking in water much of the day). Enter the mouth of Hackberry Canyon which is found on the other side of the wash and head upstream. The canyon soon passes through a very pretty stretch of narrows where the stream cuts through the Cockscomb. Then, a short distance later, the canyon widens as it heads through the Chile and Moenave formations - look for a hikers trail on one side of the bank or the other that makes for easier walking.

About 4.5 miles up Hackberry you'll see a prominent side canyon that enters from the left (UTM 417342mE, 4128172mN). Those with a little time on their hands might consider completing a 3 mile (total out-and-back distance) detour to Sam Pollock arch. Walk up this side canyon until you encounter a pour off at the top of the Kayenta formation. Look for a trail on the right (facing up canyon) that leads up and around this obstacle. Continue up canyon to locate Sam Pollock arch looming above the streambed on the right. When ready return the way you came.

Continue up Hackberry another 3.5 miles to arrive at the drainage of Stone Donkey Canyon, which enters from the left (UTM 418626mE, 4131999mN). Push through the brush at the mouth of the canyon and soon you'll reach a pleasant spring, pool and small natural arch. Continue up canyon another 1.5 miles to identify the canyon narrows. Those without technical gear can explore the narrows from the bottom. Those wishing to see the entire canyon should backtrack a short distance until you can identify a break in the cliffs on canyon left (right facing up canyon). Before heading up the steep slope, drop your non-essential gear and camping equipment. The canyon is very narrow and it's advisable to travel as lightly as possible. When ready, climb up through the break, then begin working your way left (to the northwest) to the slickrock bench above the canyon. If you've made ti to the right place, Cottonwood Butte will be above you ahead and to the right. Walk to the head of the canyon then around to the opposite side (right down canyon) and locate a stout cedar tree a short distance from the head of the canyon (and a short distance back from the edge). The tree is your anchor for the one and only rappel (UTM 416407mE, 4133799mN). In order for your 200' rope to reach the bottom, you'll need to extend your anchor with a long piece of webbing. Rappel over the edge and into the canyon. The last 80 feet or so of this rap is free hanging as you drop into a beautiful natural cathedral. Once down, pull your rope, remove your harness and head down canyon. The slot constricts to a narrow crack and you'll have to turn sideways in a few sections as you scrape between the walls. Some wading may be required, and depending on the time of day, you may find yourself in near darkness (thus the headlamps). Unfortunately, the canyon soon opens up into the wide wash and the gear you stashed earlier.

Pick a place to camp and after a good nights sleep retrace your steps back to your car at the mouth of Hackberry.

Rating (1-5 stars):

This is an alternate version of the hike the author completed here. The advantage of this route is that it does not require a car shuttle.


Click for a map of the hike: Map 1, Map 2


Hiking and Exploring the Paria River - Michael Kelsey


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The entry rappel. The narrows of Stone Donkey Canyon.